Being safe is not being conformist

We’re often told that to get anywhere in life we need to take risks and dare to make leaps of faith. We read stories about people like Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft and is now one of the richest people alive.
But is this really the truth? Or is it an extreme oversimplification?
A lot of the people we see as risk takers are instead very good at taking the safe path while they investigate other avenues. Changing your path is of course always a risk. But the ones we see, the ones who make it, they don’t blindly follow a passion and take a leap of faith. Rather they wait for the moment where the new path feels more secure than the one they’re currently on. They’ve also in most cases have made sure to have a backup plan if this new path fails. As Bill Gates himself tells about his jump from his Harvard path to the Microsoft path in this video, if things didn’t work out, he’d just go back to Harvard. That’s not something everyone can just do.

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Following a safe path is not conformist

The quote that inspired this post is a quote from Cal Newport’s ‘So good they can’t ignore you’


We are told to lionize those with the courage to follow their passion, and pity the conformist drones who cling to the safe path.

Cal Newport

Being safe is being smart. If you quit your job at the slightest whiff of a new venture you’ll probably stumble and fall. For some, this is okay, they might have enough money to manage until they find a new job. Most of us don’t have this luxury.
Instead of following every passion project that turns up spend your free time slowly hammering out plans. Start doing it as a hobby and have fun. If this project stays a hobby, that is fine! Not everything has to be a hustle, side- or otherwise.
If your new project do start gaining momentum this is the time to actually start thinking about taking a leap. Focus word here being thinking. Start planning out how to make this new project sustainable for your life. If you are able, start trying to save more of your income so you have some extra cash if things get rough. Think about how changes in your employment could be made. If you were to make changes in your employment, would they be okay with that? Does your place of employment offer sabbaticals? If so take some time off and see how it goes.

If you are a highly skilled person that can find a new job easy this might not be as hard. But for a lot of people this planning state is crucial. Most people don’t have the privilege of just setting aside extra money or start taking on less hours.

When to take a leap?

If things are going well you might eventually reach a sort of critical mass. Then it’s time to make a choice. Maybe your hobby has started to take up almost all of your time and giving you some serious money. The big question then is: if you take a leap and quit your job, do you think your extra time spent on this project will make it grow enough to sustain you? If the answer is yes, you think that if you could just work on this venture full time you’d get an income that would support you, then take that leap! It’s no longer a leap of faith but a leap of careful planning. It might be a rough few months before the extra work is paying off.

But if you’ve taken calculated risks whilst staying on a safe path you are more likely to end up where you want to be.
Taking risks are not bad but trying to emulate a false narrative of following your passion to success will in most cases lead nowhere.

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